The Circus

The Circus


21st C

As far as historical research is concerned a writer is at the mercy of all other writers interested in the same subject. It is impossible to keep up to date because new research reveals previously unknown detail all the time, as in the following instance.

Some months ago I wrote here that neither Margaret Gainsborough nor her husband the renowned portraitist had ever left these shores. I was wrong. Susan Sloman, a specialist in eighteenth century art, published a new book "Gainsborough's Landscapes: Themes and Variations," in 2011 to mark the opening of an exhibition of Gainsborough's work currently showing at the Holburne Museum in Bath.

At the opening of the display Susan Sloman told me she had recently discovered that Thomas Gainsborough had, contrary to my earlier comments, visited Europe, but only once, and then late in life, in 1783, five years before his death. I was really intrigued to learn of this, as I had often wondered why he had never travelled beyond the land of his birth. And I am still puzzled by his failure to visit more of Europe's excellent collections of great art in the 18th C.

There is no evidence to indicate that Margaret accompanied him on this brief trip to Antwerp, the sole reason for the journey appearing to be his desire to see one particular painting then hanging in Antwerp cathedral, Ruben's DESCENT FROM THE CROSS, widely recognized at the time as a fine example of good composition.